Roots Of An Oak!
Once upon a time, in a land far away, there lived a skinny boy named Arnold who met a giant named Kurt. Under Kurt's guidance, Arnold trained and dreamed. He told people he would one day be the best bodybuilder in the universe and a famous movie star and a wealthy businessman.
People laughed, but Arnold grew and grew until only America was big enough for his biggest dreams. Through the years, the truth somehow always exceeded the fable. FLEX traveled to the places where this most improbable tale began, once upon a time.
- Arnold's Physique Was Ahead Of Its Time. - By X-Rep.com
- A Tribute To A Great Champion. - By David Robson
- Arnold Schwarzenegger: A Growing Influence! - By Anthony Church
- Other Arnold Schwarzenegger Articles...
It's October 6, 2006, and I'm with photographers Kevin "Hardcore" Horton and Raymond Cassar in a hotel lobby on the outskirts of Graz, Austria. We're just a few miles from where Arnold Schwarzenegger grew up and first trained, but there are no brochures or maps to such sites. We're trying to determine where to go and how to get there when Dany Hölzl, promoter of the Austria Grand Prix, strides up. After a few words with us, he makes a phone call.
Twenty minutes later, Kurt Marnul comes through the hotel's revolving doors. At 78, he appears at least a decade younger. Tanned, he sports shoulder-length gray hair and a moustache, and he wears a leather vest, jeans, expensive jewelry and ever-present sunglasses. Married (and divorced) four times to four knockouts, Marnul still dresses and flirts like a playboy.
Even in monochrome photos of him winning the Mr. Austria title and setting a world record in the bench press, he's wearing sunglasses. Marnul should have been at Muscle Beach during the middle era, after the acrobats but before The Oak, scoping out the chicks through his shades with Larry Scott and Don Howorth, and later cruising Pacific Avenue in his Renault Floride.
In the '60s, he was that guy — the guy other guys wanted to be — but in southeastern Austria, not Southern California. But we're getting ahead of the story.
Marnul is the perfect guide. No one short of the living legend himself could better chaperone us on a tour of the landmarks of Schwarzenegger's youth, when he first discovered bodybuilding and bodybuilding first discovered him. The one potential problem — Marnul speaks no more English than hello and Horton, Cassar and I speak no more German than gesundheit — is remedied when native Austrian Wolfgang Koellerer, owner of Muscletime.com, agrees to accompany us and translate.
The two photographers and I squeeze into Marnul's Mitsubishi Pajero, which is covered with logos and pictures of him and Schwarzenegger, while Koellerer and his girlfriend follow in his pickup truck, adorned with Muscletime logos. Hölzl's SUV in the hotel parking lot is plastered with photos of Ronnie Coleman and Markus Rühl, and Grand Prix decals. I guess vehicular advertising is an Austrian thing.
Forget what you heard about Schwarzenegger growing up in Graz, which is the second-largest city in Austria with a population of around 250,000. He lived his first 19 years in Thal, a farming community with a population of 1,200 spread about the hills a few miles from Graz.
In Marnul's billboard on wheels, we cover those serpentine miles at unsafe speeds, traversing the same roads teenage Schwarzenegger trekked daily via bicycle or on foot, often through rain or snow, on his 12-mile round-trip journey to the gym...
To read the full story, pick up the July 2007 issue of FLEX, on newsstands June 11.